“Over time the CPVC is becoming brittle and cracking, so I no longer use it,” he says. “Occasionally I have to use it over a repair when the system already has it within, however i don’t use CPVC for repipes anymore.”
Grzetich is just not alone. Though still an accepted material for piping, CPVC is losing favor with a few plumbers since they encounter various difficulties with it while at the job. They say it’s less a matter of if issues will occur but once.
“On some houses it lasts quite a very long time before it gets brittle. Other houses, I think they have more related to temperature and placement of your pipe than anything,” Grzetich says. “But as time passes, just about any CPVC will get brittle and ultimately crack. As soon as it cracks, it cracks very good and after that you’re going to get a steady flow water out of it. It’s unlike copper where you get yourself a leak inside it plus it just drips. Once CPVC cracks, it is going. I had been at the house yesterday, and then there were three leaks within the ceiling, all from CPVC. So when I tried to correct them, the pipe just kept cracking.”
Sean Mayfield, a master plumber doing work for Whole House Repipe Missouri City, Colorado, says in his work he encounters CPVC piping about 20 percent of times.
“It’s approved to put in houses, having said that i think it’s too brittle,” he says. “If it’s coming from a floor and you also kick it or anything, you have a pretty good chance of breaking it.”
He doesn’t use it for repiping and prefers copper, partly due to the craftsmanship involved in installing copper pipe.
“I’m a 25-year plumber so I prefer to use copper. It genuinely requires a craftsman to get it in,” he says. “Not everybody can sweat copper pipe making it look really good and make it look right.”
But being a less expensive replacement for copper that doesn’t carry some of the problems linked to CPVC, Mayfield, Grzetich and other plumbers say they often times use PEX as it allows more leeway for expansion and contraction, and also carries a longer warranty than CPVC. For Mayfield and Grzetich it’s all the about the ease of installation as it is providing customers a product or service that may be more unlikely to result in issues long term.
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“A large amount of it comes down to budget, yes, but also if you’re carrying out a repipe on a finished house where you have to cut the sheetrock and everything, it’s always easier just to get it done in PEX because you can fish it through like an electrical wire,” Mayfield says. “It cuts the labor down beyond doubt.
“And CPVC uses glue joints that setup for a certain amount of time,” he adds. “With the PEX, you just work by using a plastic cutter, expand it having a tool and place it over a fitting. It’s a lot less labor intensive as far as gluing and drilling holes. Gluing on CPVC, you will need to glue every joint. Whereas PEX, you could probably run 30 or 40 feet from it through some holes so you don’t have any joints.”
Any piping product is going to be prone to problems if it’s not installed properly, but Mayfield notes that CPVC carries a smaller margin for error than PEX as it is a far more rigid pipe that has a tendency to get especially brittle with time.
“If a plumber uses CPVC and is also, say, off by half an inch on their holes, they’ll have to flex the pipe to have it inside a hole,” he says. “It will likely be fine for a long time and after that suddenly, due to the strain, create a crack or leak. Everything needs to be really precise in the measurements with CPVC. Then it’s yet another little nerve-wracking to operate on because if you take an angle stop that’s screwed onto CPVC and you’re using two wrenches, you almost always flex the pipe slightly. You’re always worried about breaking the pipe because it’s brittle.”
“We did a home inside a new subdivision – the home was just 6 years old – and that we was required to replumb the complete house as it is in CPVC. We actually finished up doing three other jobs within the same neighborhood. Following that, the first repipe we did is at CPVC because we didn’t really know what else to utilize. Then again we looked into it and discovered a greater product.”
“I’ve done about 20 repipes with Uponor. I’ve had zero callbacks, zero issues,” he says. “I apply it over copper usually. Really the only time I personally use copper is perfect for stub-outs making it look nice. Copper remains to be an excellent product. It’s just expensive.
“I know plumbers who still use CPVC. Some individuals just stay with their old guns and when something such as Uponor originates out, they wait awhile before they begin working with it.”
But based on Steve Forbes of Priority Plumbing in Dallas, Oregon, CPVC may still be a trusted material for the plumbing system provided that it’s installed properly.
Inside a blog on his company’s website, Forbes writes about some of the concerns surrounding CPVC, noting that in his experience, CPVC pipe failures are based on improper installation and in most cases affect only hot-water lines.
“CPVC will expand when heated, and in case the device is installed that will not let the hot-water lines to freely move when expanded, this will result in a joint to fail,” he says. “Each instance We have observed was as a result of an improperly designed/installed system.”
In accordance with CPVC pipe manufacturer Lubrizol, CPVC will expand about an inch for every single 50 feet of length when subjected to a 50-degree temperature increase. Offsets or loops are essential for long runs of pipe in order to accommodate that expansion.
“I feel that the situation resides in that many plumbers installed CPVC much like copper, and did not permit the additional expansion and contraction of CPVC systems,” Forbes says in the blog. “If the piping is installed … with enough variations in direction and offsets, expansion and contraction is not an issue.”
Forbes does acknowledge that CPVC could possibly get brittle, and additional care must be taken when seeking to repair it. Still, he stands behind the product.
“CPVC, if properly installed, is great and will not have to be replaced,” he says. “I repiped my house with CPVC over ten years ago – no problems.”
Generally though, PEX is becoming the content of choice.
In the Southern California service area, Paul Rockwell of Rocksteady Plumbing says CPVC plumbing is rare.
“Sometimes the thing is it in mobile homes or modular homes, but I can’t consider a foundation home that I’ve seen it in, within the 10 years I’ve been working here,” he says. “I don’t know why it’s not around here. We used a lot of it doing tract homes in Colorado within the 1990s once i was working there.”
Copper and PEX are what Rockwell generally encounters in his work. He typically uses Uponor PEX on repiping jobs.
“PEX is nice since you can snake it into places and you also don’t need to open several walls as you may would with copper,” he says. “If somebody came to me and wanted to conduct a copper repipe, I’d dexspky68 it but it would be 2 1/2 times the cost of a PEX repipe just because of the material as well as the more time. So it’s pretty rare that somebody asks for this.”
In the limited experience working with CPVC, Rockwell says they have seen exactly the same issues described by others.
“The glue is likely to take an especially number of years to dry and i also do mostly service work so the thought of repairing CPVC and waiting hours for that glue to dry isn’t very appealing,” he says. “And I’ve seen it get pretty brittle after a while. I don’t have a lot of exposure to it, but even if it were popular here, I feel I would personally still use PEX over CPVC. So long as it’s installed properly, I haven’t seen any difficulties with it.”